The Scoop on Kitty Litter

Are all kitty litters created equal? Does more expensive necessarily mean better? Regular contributor Vet Ben Wilcocks does the dirty work...

Did you know that in Australia, we spend more than $130 million dollars a year on cat litter. I found that statistic very surprising indeed. But when you think about it, almost every pet owner that has an indoor cat would be purchasing kitty litter for the entirety of their pet’s life. Keeping this in mind, it’s definitely worth putting your money into a good product, and as we all know there are millions of different cat litters seemingly available in the Australian marketplace.

In this article, we will take a broad look at the different types of litter available, the more important factors which come into play when picking litter, and the pro’s and con’s of each litter type.

First and foremost, what are considered to be the most important considerations for most cat owners when purchasing kitty litter? Listed below are the big ones are far as I’m concerned:

1. Odour

Ideally, the less odour that the litter produces once your cat has used it, the better.

2. Absorptive Capacity

Kitty Litter is obviously designed to absorb urine and fluid, so the better the absorptive capacity of the litter, the more effective it becomes, and the less often it needs to be recycled. This is also likely to impact odour.

3. Stickiness

Since litter trays are designed for your cat to walk in, the less sticky the litter is, the less likely it will track out of the litter tray via your cats feet. This is important from a cleanliness, and a hygiene point of view.

4. Appeal

Obviously if the litter doesn’t appeal to cats, and they don’t want to use it, then it doesn’t matter about any of the remaining considerations

5. Environmentally Friendly

These days, the green stamp is very important, particularly if you are churning through kitty litter like it’s going out of fashion.

6. Cost

Cost is a huge factor, particularly considering the aforementioned stats.

7. Safety of Product

How safe is the product for you, your pet and your family. Is is toxic if ingested, does it produce any concerning dust residue, and so on.

8. Ease of Clean-Up

Ease of cleaning is important with cat litter. The frequency of cleaning, and the difficulty in cleaning the tray, can play a significant role in your choice of litter.
With this in mind, we will look at the 3 basic types of litter on the market, assess the pro’s and con’s of each variety, and grade the products according to the considerations mentioned above.

Clumping Litter

Clumping litter is designed to be highly absorbant, absorbing urine and forming a clump which can then be removed, thereby getting rid of the waste. It originally replaced granulated clay which had effectively been the only option for cat litter.

It is cost effective, as you don’t need to fully replace the litter, just remove and replace the clumped contents. And it is relatively odour free, assuming you regularly remove the clumps, and replace the deficit with fresh litter. If you don’t adopt this practice regularly, and don’t clean the litter tray out completely every month, odours can develop.
Clumping litter can vary considerably. Some can be scented or unscented, some clumping litters have larger granules to prevent tracking of litter outside the tray, and some are designed to be flushable. Fine grain clumping litter is considered to be very appealing to cats, and is said to be relatively safe, unless ingested at such large quanitites that gastro-intestinal upset and intestinal obstruction can occur. This is highly unlikely.

Crystal Litter

Crystal litter is commonly made of sand or a blend of sand. It is an effective litter, absorbing waste well, and minimising odours. This litter requires a full clean out once a week, as opposed to clumping litter, where you only remove the clumped bits. Therefore, it is an expensive option, and not particularly eco-friendly. The litter is easy to clean up, is non toxic and biodegradable. Cats rarely track the litter outside of the tray, however the appeal to use the product is much lower than fine granular clumping litter.

Natural & Bio-degradable Litter (Recycled paper, pine, woodchip sawdust, etc)

Natural litter can come in a variety of forms, such as recycled paper, fine woodchip, pine, etc. It can also come as both clumping, and non-clumping litter, and can be both flushable, and non-flushable. Generally there is no dust, so this litter is great for people and cats who suffer allergies, and they provide great absorptive capacity, good odour control, and easy clean-up. They are moderately expensive litter options, but are very good for the environment.

So as you can see, there are a variety of types of kitty litter available, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I personally like the biodegradable recycled paper litter, however all effectively do the job, and often the choice is dependent upon the circumstances. Hopefully this gives everyone more of an insight into the types of kitty litter available, so they can make a better informed decision for their feline family members.

Dr Ben Willcocks is a Veterinarian, and a regular contributor to the pet website,

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